|Cy Twombly: "The Italians"|
This may be a decision that many of you have reached years ago when your art class first studied Cy Twombly and you thought, "my parents have a dozen of these on their fridge from my kindergarten year." But for me, as a wannabe intellectual, aesthete, gallery-opening type person who scoffs at those who ask "but what is it?," this is a true confession. And judging by the angry comments on this Buzzfeed article that dared to mock modern art, I may be setting myself up for an upbraiding by the art-world aficionados. But when I look at Marcel Duchamp's "sculptures" and Ashley Bickerton's teen-angsty "Self Portrait," I just wonder who in the art world decided to elevate those pieces out of the junkyard above all others. I feel: if you like Bickerton's work so much, a) you should really be a NASCAR fan, because those guys are wearing this kind of art all the time, and b) I'll sell you a recreation of my teenage bedroom door: all that plus Mark McGrath photos!
|Ashley Bickerton, Tormented Self Portrait|
In the play Red, about abstract-expressionist painter Mark Rothko, people who like art because of the color are maligned as the worst of the worst. Rothko relates the anecdote of a woman who tried to return a darker work of his she had purchased for a brighter one because it "depressed" her. The audience roared with disdainful laughter. (And this was the audience at the show in Atlanta; I can't imagine how the New York audience must've been rolling in the aisles, peeing their pants.) But I kind of sympathized with this patron, she of the multi-thousand-dollar purchase that made her feel icky when she looked at it, and it didn't match her drapes, to boot.
|Marcel Duchamp, Fountain.|
|Duchamp, Roue de bicyclette|
I realize this makes me plebeian. I realize the art should come first and the furniture second. Unless the furniture is art? Then the furniture and wall-hangings don't have to match because they are both art and the fact that it's art obviates the need for color schemes, is that right? What about paint colors? I don't know, you guys, I almost bought a painting at IKEA last week. I'm totally helpless. (Plus side: at least IKEA would've let me return it.)
And here's the thing: I'm totally willing to admit that I'm just not smart/intuitive/creative enough to "get" this art. (Unlike, apparently, most of the readers of Buzzfeed, who understand and appreciate the value of a square of blue more than an insensitive imbecile like me.) But I'm also kind of thinking that someone needs to tell the Emperor that he has no clothes on?
I'm not entirely alone here. An author on Vice blog (who goes by the name Glen Coco, so I already adore him), says this:
And there have been multiple scientific studies that tested the hypothesis "Could a Child Really Do That?" Two scientists had art students and non-art students compare paintings by professional abstract painters, children, and animals, to see if they could tell the difference. The students picked the professional artists between 60 and 70% of the time (the art students, as you would expect, picked the professional paintings correctly more often). This majority is more than mere chance, of course, but it is also not overwhelming. In fact, another scientist took the results of this study and compared it to human ability to distinguish other non-art types of objects, and determined via margin of error (and I'm skipping to the conclusion here -- feel free to read more about the study yourself) that abstract artists are statistically only 4% better than children.
You know what? I'm sick of pretending. I went to art school, wrote a dissertation called "The Elevation of Art Through Commerce: An Analysis of Charles Saatchi's Approach to the Machinery of Art Production Using Pierre Bourdieu's Theories of Distinction", have attended art openings at least once a month for the last five years, even fucking purchased pieces of it, but...I'm finally ready to come out and say it: I just don't think I "get" art. I'm like, 99% sure that nobody's ACTUALLY into art and it's just some exclusive club you can only join if you've got more money than interesting things to communicate to the rest of the human species.
Yves Klein, "IKB 191"
To me, more significant than the actual results is the fact that these studies were even conducted in the first place. For professional scientists to seek funding, propose a hypothesis, and design an experiment to empirically gauge whether abstract art could be done by chimps and five year-olds gives a lot of creedence to that underlying question, doesn't it? It means a lot of people are looking at Cy Twombly and saying, "my kid could do that." So let me put it to you, my smarty-pants readers: which of these paintings was made by a kid, and which was made by a professional abstract expressionist?
Look, I'm not saying that abstract artists aren't talented; in fact, I think they're bursting with talent so all-consuming that have to explode with it on canvas. But wasn't Michelangelo talented, too? And it doesn't take a scientific study to prove that a child or a chimp or a lawyer could never paint the Sistine Chapel.
I get it -- I do -- I get the argument that art is not art if it's repetitive, unoriginal, unchanging, and that artists are constantly trying to change and explode the status quo. But at the same time, I think this era of talented people doing things that are blatantly amateur-looking is part of this greater cultural syndrome of permeating irony. I don't think I'm the only one whose getting a little sick of hipsterism and irony and wearing and liking things because they're stupid and bourgeois and antiquated. (And believe me, I've been guilty of my share of it.) But isn't intellectual irony just smart people fake-liking things that dumb people sincerely like? And isn't that pretty mean-spirited and dumb in itself? What's so bad about sincerity, anyway?
I'll leave you with this great New York Times article, "How to Live Without Irony," and return to writing my sarcastic blog titled after a B-list horror movie that's so bad it's funny. Apparently, I've got a long way to go. Maybe I'll take up painting?
Answer to the art quiz: the image on the left: 4 year old. Image on the right: Hans Hofmann, abstract expressionist.